Author Archives: Matt Phillpott

About Matt Phillpott

I am an historian of early modern Britain and the Digital Resources Manager at the School of Advanced Study. My main area of interest is in the authentication of knowledge in early print, including religious, historical, and agricultural texts.

IHR refurbishment project gets underway

SH frontISG Construction Ltd has been awarded the contract for the rewiring and refurbishment of the IHR wing of the Senate House north block.  They are carrying out some preliminary inspections and surveys at the moment but during the week commencing Monday 24th June they will be setting up their site compound.  This will be in the corner of the Russell Square car park, between the tower and the IHR wing.  The movement of materials and waste to and from the site compound will be governed by a traffic management plan which has been designed to make the process as safe as possible.

The Russell Square car park will be closed to all but service and delivery vehicles from Monday 24th June, but the Malet Street car park will be reopened and may be used from that date.  There will be occasions when the Malet Street car park has to be closed, but advance notice will be given and space will be made available elsewhere for disabled drivers.  Cyclists and pedestrians will still be able to use the Russell Square car park and safe access routes will be marked out.

The refurbishment will last until July next year and although the noisiest of the work has been scheduled to take place out of the University’s working hours, there will inevitably be some disturbance from time to time.  We will keep this to a minimum but it will generally not be possible to stop the work in response to complaints about noise.  Your understanding and patience is requested.

The completion of this project will allow IHR to return to fully refurbished library, seminar and office space in the north block in time for the start of the autumn term next year.  The rest of the empty space in the north block has been leased to SOAS and they are working on their own refurbishment plans.  We will give updates on the progress of the IHR and SOAS refurbishments from time to time but in the meantime, please direct any questions to the Estates projects office on extension 8224.


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Supporting the IHR in its re-development

Last year the IHR celebrated its 90th anniversary.  For much of that time, the IHR has occupied the North wing of Senate House without much in the way of renovation.  Those of you who have visited us over the last decade or so will have noticed how marvellous the South block of Senate House looks after its refurbishment.  Those of you who live too far away to visit us in person will be able to find glimpses of the South block in blockbuster films such as the upcoming Batman movie. 

Many of the costs associated with the refurbishment of the IHR have already been met or agreed upon within the University of London budgets but there is so much more that we would like to achieve.  To that end we have created a short video where our director, Professor Miles Taylor, explains a little of what we do and what we would like to achieve.  If you would like to help out please take a look at our ‘support us’ pages on the main IHR website

Video Text

Hello, my name is Miles Taylor and I am the Director of the Institute of Historical Research here in the heart of the University of London, in Bloomsbury. The Institute – or ‘IHR’ as everyone knows it – is a remarkable place. It was founded in 1921, arriving before the rest of the University and quickly becoming a key part of history in the UK. Nowadays, our library of printed primary sources has grown to almost 200,000 volumes. We host over 60 research seminars per fortnight. We provide a huge range of listings, guides, teaching and training materials and services for historians across the UK. Our junior fellowship programme is the largest in the country, and we are home to a number of research centres. The highlight of our year, the Anglo-American conference, draws together hundreds of scholars from around the world to debate and discuss the main historical topics of our time. In recent years we have become a digital operation as well. The principal collections of our Library have been digitised as British History Online, all our listings services are now on the web, and we run an innovative virtual programme of podcast and live-streamed events.

The Institute is now embarking on an exciting £3m modernisation of our Senate House headquarters. In the autumn of 2013 we shall move back into a refurbished building, equipped with new conference and research training suites, enhanced library and research facilities, and an expansion of room for our fellows and postgraduate students. It’s an exciting project. It preserves the original ethos and layout of the Institute, whilst expanding our capacity to deliver more events, training and teaching. Our new layout will be welcome news for the traditional library-user. A unique single-site history library will be created, with the University history borrowing collection housed at the top of the building.

The University expects the Institute to match their commitment to our future with some fundraising of our own. We are required to pay for the bespoke fitting out of the building. We need £0.5m for our new training and conference facilities, and for library fittings and furniture. But I want the IHR to go further than this. In addition to helping refurbish the building, I have set ourselves a target of c. £4m to reinvigorate and add to our range of academic activities: expanding our international fellowship and events programmes, establishing a new Chair in the History of London, and making a digital library of our unique holdings in colonial American history.  

I realise this is an ambitious shopping list. However, it is spending to grow and it is spending to achieve financial sustainability. And there is no better time for us to raise money, for we have been set a challenge grant target by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. If we can reach $1m then the Foundation will match that with $1m of their own.

Please help us transform the Institute for the 21st century and put us on the road to financial self-reliance. Our Development Office staff can advise you on how to help if you want to take the next step.

With thanks to BDP for images and plans

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The new IHR (basement): The Exhibition Space

Did you see our exhibition on 90 years of the IHR at last year’s Anglo-American conference?  If not never fear as a ‘virtual’ version of that exhibition is still available on the IHR website.  It is well worth a look and makes for a fascinating read; however, that is not the central purpose of today’s post. What we would like to draw to your attention is the re-design of the IHR basement to incorporate a dedicated exhibition space. 



The ability to host a revolving exhibition is something that we are very excited about, with lots of plans in the works for what it might contain and naming opportunities for potential sponsors.



Although the 3D rendering above does not really do justice to the space we envisage it as a place members and visitors can wander around during their break from study in the library or, alternatively as a gathering area during conferences and other events held in our adjoining conference suite (see last week’s post). 

As you might have noticed the exhibition space in the corridor linking the main stairwell and lift to the conference suite is an innovative use of space and we think an improvement for a space formerly occupied by little more than ancient photocopiers and lacklustre tables and chairs.    

With thanks to BDP for images and plans

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The new IHR (basement): Conference and Lecture Theatres

The IHR has always prided itself on running events both large and small.  Our annual events programme includes conferences covering various historical topics and our premier event, the Anglo-American conference which continues to grow and improve every year.  However, with the old Wolfson and Pollard rooms being our largest space (able to hold 100 people) we were always forced to hold larger events elsewhere in Senate House which meant lots of walking to and fro or that the event was hosted outside of the IHR space itself.  An integrated conference space became one of the highest priorities for the re-development of the IHR.



So here is the proposed conference suite.  As you can see there are two rooms (one with a capacity for about 90 and the other for about  40).  However, just like the old Wolfson and Pollard rooms, these can be joined together to form one larger suite (see images below).  Of course, this poses difficulties of design to make sure that everyone can see the speaker and large screen projected image.  Much thought, therefore has been put into that issue to avoid any problems.  The suite will also be fitted with entirely new state-of-the-art AV (audio-visual) equipment including plasma screens, projectors, speakers and microphones.  We have several design drawings for the conference rooms which can be looked at below:


Next time we shall stay in the basement but move next door from the conference suite to another brand new addition to the IHR – a dedicated exhibition space.  

With thanks to BDP for images and plans

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IHR re-development update (May 2012)

 It’s been a while since our last post here but finally we have some exciting news to share concerning the renovation of the Institute of Historical Research.  The Senate House Phase 4 renovation is proceeding at pace and the designs and plans have now been developed and approved for the new IHR.  As the plan below shows we will be returning to an area covering the basement and the first three levels of the North Block.  Overall, the space envelope remains the same but the space use will be quite different and we will of course be modernised  whilst also maintaining the kind of atmosphere that you value.


Over the coming months we will look in-depth at various elements of the new IHR design including the new conference suite; research training room; common room and library layout.  This week we shall begin with the basement which, in its previous life, was the gloomy underbelly of the IHR holding some portions of the library and a line of rather ancient photocopiers, members’ lockers, and storage.

The image below shows the design layout for the new basement featuring a state of the art conference suite, exhibition space, and three rooms retained for the library.  Of all the re-design elements it is here that we are making some of the most significant improvements.


With thanks to BDP for images and plans

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We will be back…

Elaine Walters, IHR Administrator discusses her thoughts and feelings about the IHR temporary relocation and its eventual return to the North Block of Senate House


Although we had actually been planning the IHR move for months, I don’t think I actually ever thought it would happen. But here we are in the south block!

I had the feeling that initially there was a lot of feet dragging, a kind of disbelief of that we would actually move at all and then suddenly I was sending round equipment logs for staff to fill in, and crawling around floors attempting to identify which particular socket a PC was attached to!

 Moving the IHR was surprisingly emotional. Every book packed, every crate filled, every picture taken off the wall, and every locker opened seemed to tear a little bit more heart out of the place. And the planning required – every library book taken off its shelf and every crate labelled to correspond with a new home elsewhere, every door lock, every phone and PC socket identified, every piece of furniture to be labelled with a home, and decisions made about what to store and what not to store.

 There were areas in the IHR which had clearly not been accessed for thirty years or more. We found old photographs, typewriters, desks with drawers containing blotting paper and ink (oh the good old days!). The most time – consuming part of the exercise was having to open every single unclaimed locker- and there were over hundred! Some clearly had not been opened for a decade. They contained newspapers from the early 90’s, record cards, spare shoes and enough books to open a book shop. Some of the most surprising items included net curtains, underwear, bedding, oceans of talcum powder and lipstick and in one locker 14 brand new toothbrushes! And from the lockers located in the women’s toilet- several unopened and several half drunk bottles of sherry!

Over the two weeks of the move things were very hectic but the library and mezzanine move, which were phases 1 and 2 went surprisingly smoothly. Hats off to the staff and to Pickford’s, who were flexible, professional, and good hearted throughout.

We experienced the inevitable problems- the photocopier was too big to get into the lift to move and had to be dismantled, some staff had over – estimated the amount of furniture which could be fitted into their new offices. One department (who shall remain nameless) had not completed their packing on the day of the move, some cupboards were so heavy that even with four Pickfords men we struggled to move them and so had to be unpacked, moved and re-packed.

Phase 3 – the move to Senate House 3rd floor, proved to be the most problematic.  In terms of the amount to be moved it was much less than phases 1 and 2 but the furniture proved too large to get into the rooms due to the ‘extra’ architraving around the door frames.   Desks had to be disassembled and re-assembled which doubled the amount of time the move should have taken.  But we made it and in no time at all people were back at their desks, vases filled with flowers and shelves filled up with belongings.

The ‘old IHR’ now stands virtually empty- no books, no furniture and no people. The space actually echoes!  I have taken many trips back in the days since the move-for me personally it is rather sad to see our corridors bereft of life. And goodness me the state of some of the space- the years of ‘north block neglect’ have taken their toll. It is not until a space is laid bare that the true extent of this is made clear.   People keep stopping me and asking why we would ever want to move back after experiencing the south block. Well, even though the offices are superior, the sense of IHR community appears broken – hopefully only for a short time until everyone gets used to the new space but the loss of the common room at the heart of the Institute is severely felt.

But enough of this melancholy; the move provides an important opportunity for the IHR to shift itself into the 21st  century. Planning for our new space is afoot and we are excited about the prospects ahead. Preliminary plans reveal that our space can be used more flexibly and to greater effect. The IHR remains committed to providing a space that is fit for purpose- that purpose being the facilitation of historical research for the generation s of historians to come, as well as those who are still with us.

Thank you to all the staff who engaged so fully with the moves, to the library staff who worked tirelessly to get the library open to the public on time, to estates staff who came good, despite my pleading, nagging and begging for things to be done, and to the members of the IHR for coming back to us. Stay with us- it’s going to be a bumpy, but worthwhile ride.

E Walters

October 2011

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Research seminar 2011-12 programme and venue (update)

The 2011-2012 IHR research seminars are just around the corner.  Last month I updated this site with a list of seminar groups who had already posted their new programme online and new locations due to the relocation of the IHR.  It looks to be a fantastic and diverse programme yet again.  So here is a quick update for the other seminar groups that have now released information about their 2011-2012 series:

Archives and Society

Mainly ST274, Stewart House


British Maritime History

Location to be announced


Comparative Histories of Asia

Holden Room 103, Senate House and STB8 Stewart House 


Conversations and Disputations: Discussions among Historians

Senate Room, Senate House


Economic and Social History of the Pre-Modern World, 1500-1800

Mainly Athlone Room 102, Senate House


Film History

various in Stewart House


Histories of Home




Gordon Room, Senate House


Metropolitan History

Gordon Room G34, Senate House


Modern French History

various in Senate House, South Block


Modern German History

Mainly Gordon Room G34, Senate House, South Block


Modern Religious History



Parliaments, Politics and People

Room ST274, Stewart House


Postgraduate and Early Career

Torrington Rm. 104 and Holden Rm. 103, Senate House, South Block


Rethinking Modern Europe



Socialist History

Bloomsbury Rm. G35, Senate House, South Block


Society, Culture and Belief, 1500-1800

Athlone Rm. 102, Senate House, South Block


Women’s History


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